The classical arts reigned supreme when the 25th Aliw Awards recently gave its most coveted prize—the Entertainer of the Year Award—to prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde.
Over the last two decades, the Entertainer of the Year Award had been given mainly to mainstream performers. Previous winners include Pilita Corrales, Rico J. Puno, Celeste Legaspi, Basil Valdez, Kuh Ledesma, Nonoy Zuniga, Freddie Aguilar, Tessie Tomas, the late Bert Marcelo, Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Lea Salonga, Ogie Alcasid, Regine Velasquez, Lani Misalucha, Sarah Geronimo, and most recently, Charice.
It is the first time the award is given to a classical artist, particularly a ballerina.
Macuja-Elizalde also went home as one of the evening’s biggest winners, bagging three other trophies: Best Classical Dancer; Best Dance Company for Ballet Manila, where she is both artistic director and principal dancer; and Best Concert Collaboration for The “Legends and the Classics”, which she produced as a “dream concert” that saw her share the stage with two other Filipina icons in the performing arts, Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad, together with conductor Gerard Salonga, FilHarmonika and Ballet Manila.
“Ballerinas have such short careers,” said a tearful Macuja-Elizalde after the ceremonies. “It means so much to us to be recognized while we are still at our peak. Every day when I wake up, I thank the Lord for giving me 28 seasons and counting as a professional ballerina because this is really longer than I expected. I could not have lasted all these years without the love and support of my family, my teachers, my partners both past and present, my artistic collaborators here and abroad, my friends and students, the entire Ballet Manila team, and most of all, everyone who has watched and supported classical ballet all these years and have kept this art alive with their patronage.”
As an icon of both popular and classical arts, Macuja-Elizalde endeared herself to the Filipino public through her untiring efforts in bringing ballet closer to the hearts of the masses. In 1986, after dancing with Russia’s illustrious Kirov Ballet as its first foreign soloist, she decided to come home and remain based in the Philippines while continuing to perform abroad as guest artist.
In 1995, she established her own company, Ballet Manila, and has since invited top ballerinas and danseurs from various dance capitals of the world to perform for the Filipino audience.
Offstage, she also hosts “Art 2 Art”, a multi-awarded tele-radyo program on culture and the arts, and is known among industry denizens for supporting local artists through her work with the Artists Welfare Project Inc. She likewise runs her own foundation for disadvantaged but talented youth, Ballet Manila’s Project Ballet Futures.
“My sincerest wish is that this Entertainer of the Year award will inspire more people to support the classical arts, and hopefully, to come and watch me perform before I retire,” said the 48-year-old ballerina, having previously announced that she plans to make her final curtain call in two years’ time.